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Whitworth Board of Trustees elects Phil Eaton and Travis Downs as newest members

November 8, 2013

Philip W. Eaton, Ph.D., ’65, president emeritus of Seattle Pacific University, and Travis E. Downs III, J.D., ’85, a California-based attorney, were elected to the Whitworth University Board of Trustees in April. Eaton and Downs will begin serving in their new roles in January 2014.

Downs is a securities attorney and partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a law firm based in San Diego, Calif. His areas of expertise include prosecution of shareholder and securities litigation, including shareholder derivative litigation on behalf of corporations and shareholders. Prior to joining the firm, Downs worked at Proctor & Gamble. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars and has lectured on a variety of topics related to shareholder derivative and class action litigation.

“I am looking forward to working with old classmates and new friends as we pursue Whitworth’s mission,” Downs says. “My four years at Whitworth truly enriched my life. In addition to meeting my wife, Sheila (’83), I had wonderful professors who taught me how to think critically. But most importantly, they never wavered in their encouragement and support. I am thrilled by the opportunity to give back to Whitworth in this role.”

Downs earned a B.A. in history from Whitworth and graduated with honors in 1985. He earned his J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 1990 and was admitted to practice law in the United States District Courts for California’s Central, Eastern, Northern and Southern districts.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Travis Downs to the board,” Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor says. “Travis will bring thoughtful and energetic leadership to our board, and I am confident that he will help lead Whitworth to new heights in mind-and-heart education.”

Philip Eaton is president emeritus of Seattle Pacific University; he retired from the position in 2012. Before
beginning his tenure as SPU’s ninth president, in 1996, Eaton served as interim president of Whitworth from 1992-93. Prior to his role as interim president, Eaton served as vice president of academic affairs and then provost of SPU. He was a professor of English and American literature at Whitworth from 1968-85.

“Phil Eaton’s return to the Whitworth board couldn't make me happier,” Taylor says. “In many ways, Phil is returning home. As a former student, faculty member, board member and interim president at Whitworth, Phil embodies what Whitworth is all about. His many years in higher education leadership will benefit our board and the university in amazing ways.”

Eaton holds a B.A. in English from Whitworth, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Eaton was the first recipient of the Whitworth Academic Dean’s Award for Outstanding Teaching. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Whitworth in 2000.

“The notion of mind and heart has shaped my Christian commitments throughout my life,” Eaton says. “I believe the Christian university must shine with intellectual vitality, vibrant spiritual life, and grace-filled community, and I hope to contribute in whatever small way to the future of this great Christian university.”

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Scott McQuilkin, vice president for institutional advancement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4386 or

Lucas Beechinor, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or